How to create an account-based ticketing system that works for all stakeholders

Kevin Dobson, Senior Product Owner at Vix, explores the challenges of implementing an account-based ticketing system that works for all stakeholders, from agencies to passengers.

Kevin Dobson of Vix at Transport Ticketing Global 2024

When implementing an account-based ticketing (ABT) system, it’s important to address the real needs of various stakeholders.

I recently had the chance to discuss this topic at Transport Ticketing Global 2024. Let’s explore how a comprehensive approach can lead to a clever, easy-to-use, and successful ABT system.

What is an account-based ticketing system?

Before ABT, information about a passenger’s account was typically held on their fare media, like a smartcard. 

An ABT system shifts that information to the cloud. It centralises the data and fare processing in one place, while still “talking” to the physically distributed fare media and devices that a passenger might interact with on their journey.

Diagram of an account-based ticketing system

What users need from an ABT system

The basic purpose of an ABT system is to enable people to pay for their travel. But different users want different things. 

Passengers seek convenience and accurate information. Participants such as bus or train operators want the ability to change their fares easily and report on ridership and revenue. Policy makers, such as transportation agencies, want fare collection systems aligned with their policies. Additionally, partners and developers expect seamless integration and transparency. 

By focusing on these needs, the ABT system can provide tangible benefits for all involved parties.

Recognizing the ABT family

The ABT family

To keep our fare family satisfied, you need to understand who our fare family are. The ABT family consists of:

  • Policy Makers
  • Passengers
  • Participants
  • Partners

However, these stakeholders may not always consider each other’s needs. By acknowledging and addressing their different viewpoints, we can create a more inclusive and customer-centric ABT solution.

The dual approach

ABT: Fare Focus, Data & Design

To successfully build an AFC (Automated Fare Collection) system that caters to the ABT family, we need to think about two things: Fare Focus and Data & Design. 

Fare Focus emphasizes two important aspects: charging fares and passenger experience. In other words, what service are we providing to the passenger, how much does it cost, and what impact does that have on their journey? Charging fares is primarily driven by policy makers who determine the fare structure and policy rules. 

Meanwhile, Data & Design is all about how the system is built, both at the backend (e.g. integrating with other third party tools) and front end (e.g. a customer facing website where they purchase tickets or passes for travel or top up their pay-as-you-go purse). This approach is very heavily influenced by decisions in the fare space. While passenger flows play a vital role in system design, it’s not essential to solely focus on them. Developer experience of your integrations and reporting outcomes are equally important.

By embracing these two themes, we can create an ABT system that combines seamless fare collection and optimally designed user experiences.

Building a happy ABT family

To deliver a well-rounded ABT family experience, these tips will help to create value for everyone:

  • Keep the team informed

In any successful implementation of an ABT system, the team driving the project is a crucial stakeholder. Keeping the team well-informed about the project’s progress, challenges and goals is essential. As stakeholders themselves, the team’s productivity and engagement are critical to achieving a successful outcome. 

  • Keep fare policy intuitive

Unnecessary complexity is confusing for passengers who don’t have time to worry about whether their ticket is valid in this zone at that time, for example. The good news is that ABT systems make it easy to adjust fares to improve the passenger experience. Having all the business rules in the cloud means they can quickly be changed. A capable ABT platform will be clever enough to address the needs of policy makers and be able to expand its capabilities for future needs.

  • Embrace simple, user-friendly design

Strive for easy and intuitive interfaces that minimize confusion for passengers and partners. This will make the system more accessible and enjoyable for all users.

  • Be transparent with information, but don’t overload

Clear and transparent communication channels are essential for building trust. Reassure passengers with relevant information at the time they need it e.g. through push notifications. But keep it minimal. Passengers don’t want to be overwhelmed with every detail of their transaction history. They do want to know how much they’re spending right now. Again, ABT systems can support this because they act as a single unified source of truth, enabling you to send out information through multiple channels. 

Following these principles, your ABT system will contribute to a happy fare family, and your team will be empowered and ready for the challenge! 


Ready to make the switch to an account based ticketing system?